Near the end of 2011 I decided to try a vegetarian diet for a few reasons, including the fact that I don’t really care for meat, red and processed meats may cause cancer, I generally wanted to eat healthier, and it’d be nice to lower my carbon footprint. Okay, technically it was not vegetarianism, rather my diet was pescatarianism, and more accurately, flexitarianism (I’ve been largely vegetarian, but chosen to eat meat a few times—mainly when I was really hungry). After three months, here are some observations (in no particular order):
- Everyone has thoughts on food and diet. Many people want to understand and define your diet, and they are quick to point out when you’re inconsistent (“Sushi?! Aren’t you a vegetarian?!”). Several overweight people told me that my choice was wrong or bad.
- A lot of people mocked vegetarianism, which is somewhat understandable because only about 1/30 people in the US are vegetarian.
- I actually prefer veggie burgers to traditional meat patties. Veggie burgers can have better flavor and texture than meat patties. As with the old stand-by (beef), there are good and bad versions, but veggie patties have more complexity (probably because of the mixture of ingredients).
- Most of the time it’s pretty easy to be a vegetarian; it is far harder to be a healthy vegetarian. Several times I found myself eating queso or french fries instead of a lower calorie, arguably healthier entree with lean meat. There are a lot of vegetarian options around Austin and most restaurants will provide some meatless alternative, but eating roasted veggies or a bland salad while others chow down on a scrumptious entree just sucks!
- Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to be a vegetarian. A few places just have no vegetarian options! BBQ places may leave you eating nothing but bread—and some only have bread made with lard, so you’re left with pickles and onions. In general, ethnic food seems friendlier to the meat-averse. If you’re really disciplined you can pack your own food, skip a meal, or demand that you go somewhere else.
- Animal derived products exist in unexpected places! For example, one of my favorite local Tex-Mex restaurants, Chuy’s, uses chicken broth in their queso. As I alluded to above, some places use lard in their bread. A lot of soups and sauces use chicken or beef stock. There’s meat or meat flavoring in beans—even traditional caesar salad dressing (anchovies). I rarely inquired as to how vegetarian food items were, choosing instead to go off my previous knowledge as well as the food’s appearance and description.
- Meat eaters also like vegetarian meals. If you eat a family-style meal a lot of people will eat your food even though you choose not to eat theirs! For example, everyone orders a pizza (most have meat) then cheese is the first flavor finished.
That’s it for now. Did I miss something? Has anyone else experienced something different?